Christopher Coker

A Sour War

The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

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July 1950 was one of the worst months in American military history: one long ignominious retreat filled with terrible small battles and occasional moments of great gallantry on the part of American units who were again and again overwhelmed by the sheer force, size and skill of the North Korean assault. Back home the country was just beginning to mobilise for the Cold War. The army was demoralised. In the North Koreans, the Americans found an enemy as formidable as the Japanese a few years earlier. ‘Let’s face it,’ an American major-general told a journalist from the Chicago Daily News, ‘the enemy has something that our men don’t have and that’s the willingness to die.’ The journalist agreed. Himself a Marine veteran of the Second World War, he later wrote that the first American troops sent to Korea were ‘spiritually, mentally, morally, and physically unprepared for war’.

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